MINUTES OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTH MEETING OFTHE EDUCATION COMMITTEE IN ROOM 135, PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS ON THURSDAY 5 SEPTEMBER 2002
Present: Mr D Kennedy (Chairman)
Mr S Wilson (Deputy Chairman)
Mrs E Bell
Mr T Gallagher
Mr O Gibson
Mr T Hamilton
Mr A Maginness
Mr G McHugh
Mr M McLaughlin
Mr K Robinson
Apologies: Mr J Fee
In Attendance: Mrs C Darrah (Committee Clerk)
Ms M Austin (Assistant Committee Clerk)
Mr D Stevenson (Clerical Supervisor)
Mr C Henderson (Clerical Assistant)
Mr P McVeigh (Clerical Assistant)
Ms G Kane (Assembly Research Directorate for item 4)
The Committee met at 10.00 a.m. in private session.
The Chairman welcomed Mr Philip McVeigh, a new member of staff to the Education Committee Office.
1. Minutes of the Meeting of 4 July 2002
The minutes of the meeting of 4 July 2002 were agreed.
2. Matters Arising
(i) A copy of a response from the Minister of Education regarding the way in which proposals for new arrangements for transfer and Post-Primary education will be handled had been circulated. The Committee noted that any proposals for new arrangements would be brought forward for full consideration by the Executive and the Assembly.
(ii) The Committee noted the response from the Minister of Education regarding the Threshold Assessment Scheme and the number of appeals and agreed to monitor the issue.
(iii) Proposals to consider the consultation document on a Review of the Schools Community Relations Programme 2002 had been circulated. Members discussed and agreed the proposals and requested that a briefing by Departmental Officials should be arranged.
(iv) The Chairman informed members that following interviews Professor John Gardner had been appointed to consider and advise the Committee on the practical implications of the Burns proposals.
(v) The Chairman advised members that the Specialist Adviser on the Common Funding Formula would provide a paper on the proposed scheme by the middle of September.
3. Chairman's Business
Mr T Gallagher joined the meeting at 10.10 a.m.
(i) The Chairman informed the Committee that Mr Roy Beggs MLA had written regarding NIPPA's concerns in relation to pre-school provision and the existing legislative loop-hole whereby two year olds could be admitted to funded Nursery places yet numerous four year olds could not have a place due to lack of resources. The Committee agreed to raise the issue with the Department of Education during the detailed clause-by-clause scrutiny of the Education and Libraries Bill.
(ii) The Chairman advised members that a number of organisations had written requesting meetings with the Committee. Members agreed that arrangements should be made for informal meetings with the Chairman and Deputy Chairman and any other members available to attend.
(iii) The Chairman informed members that an invitation from the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure to attend a seminar lead by the French Minister of Culture on Thursday 19 September 2002 had been received. Members agreed to contact the Clerk if they wished to attend.
(i) A response from the Minister of Education to the Committee's comments on the draft proposals for the Capital Allocation Process had been circulated. The Committee noted the Minister of Education's intention to come back before the final draft issued and to provide a position report on PPP projects in the near future. The Committee agreed to seek further clarification of the issue of equality of access to funding.
(ii) Copies of letters from the Minister of Education regarding the Committee's response to the Committee for Finance and Personnel on the Executive Programme Position Report/Budget 2002 and from the First Minister and Deputy First Minister regarding the Needs and Effectiveness Evaluation on Education Services had been circulated. The Committee agreed that arrangements should be made to meet with Departmental Officials at Rathgael House, Bangor to discuss the Needs and Effectiveness Evaluation and budget issues further and.
(iii) The Committee briefly discussed a response from the Minister of Education regarding the membership of the Inquiry into Teachers' Pay and Conditions of Service and the timetable to complete its work. The Committee expressed concern at the delay in resolving the issue of pay differentials for Principals and Vice-Principals and agreed to write again.
(iv) The Committee discussed a response from the Minister of Education to questions regarding the North Belfast Support Package and the four schools in the area who did not receive funding. The Committee agreed to write to the Minister to seek further information on the matter and on the funding available to combat vandalism.
(v) The Committee noted the response from the Minister of Education to the Committee's letter supporting a bid for an increase in sustainable core funding for the Youth Service.
Mr G McHugh joined the meeting at 10.27 a.m.
(vi) Copies of letters from the Minister of Education and the Chief Executive of the Southern Education and Library Board regarding the Board's financial difficulties had been circulated. The Committee noted the actions being taken to help address the problems and the Minister's acknowledgement of the need for additional funding for all Boards. The Committee agreed to request further information regardimng the Review of the Assessment of Relative Needs. The Committee also noted that the Southern Education and Library Board had rescinded its decision to withdraw concessionary transport on some routes pending the outcome of a Review and agreed to write to the Department of Education to seek clarification of the Review of Home to School Transport.
(vii) Copies of letters from the Minister of Education and the Chief Executive of the North Eastern Education and Library Board regarding the Board's financial difficulties had been circulated. The Committee noted that measures had been taken to alleviate most of the short-term problems and the Board had not received any extra funding over and above that to which it was entitled.
(viii) A response from the Minister of Education's Private Secretary to a complaint by Mr J Nicholson regarding errors in the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment's mathematics papers had been received. The Committee noted a response that had issued from the Department of Education and agreed that no further action was necessary.
(ix) A response from the Minister of Education to information requested by the Committee for Employment and Learning in relation to Postgraduate Certificate in Education courses had been circulated. The Committee noted the response and agreed to forward it to the Committee for Employment and Learning.
Mrs E Bell joined the meeting at 10.37 a.m.
(x) Copies of letters from the Speaker and the Minister of Education regarding the public petitions in relation to Hollybank Primary School and Knockloughrim Primary School had been circulated. Members noted the reasons for the reduction in funding to the schools and agreed to write to the Minister regarding the financial support under the School Support Programme.
(xi) A copy of a memorandum from the Committee of the Centre inviting comments on the Remit of a Standing Committee on EU Affairs had been circulated. The Committee agreed that, given the very limited competency under the EU Treaties for Community Action in the school education and youth sectors, no comment was necessary at this time.
(xii) Copies of letters from the Regional Development Committee and the Social Development Committee regarding the Strategic Planning Bill, the Housing Bill and the Housing Support Services Bill had been circulated. After a brief discussion the Committee agreed that, as there were no issues particularly relevant to education, no comment was necessary.
Mr D Kennedy left the meeting at 10.40 a.m. and Mr S Wilson took the chair.
(xiii) The Committee considered a response to the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister on those issues within the Executive's Position Report which related to the Programme for Government and following a short discussion the response was agreed subject to two additions.
5. Briefing by the Assembly Research Directorate on the Education and Libraries Bill
The Deputy Chairman welcomed Miss Gillian Kane from the Assembly Research Directorate to the meeting to give the Committee a general overview of the Education and Libraries Bill. Miss Kane outlined the main issues contained in the Bill and answered members' questions. The main issues discussed included:
- the Common Funding Formula and the powers the Bill would give to the Department;
- Best Value and non-commercial matters;
- the welfare and protection of pupils including the definition of 'abuse' and the timeframe for reviewing the policy;
- proposed changes to the system of Nursery school admissions;
- proposals to enable the removal of members of a school's Board of Governors;
- consultation of schools by sampling; and
- the abolition of corporal punishment.
The Deputy Chairman thanked Ms Kane for a very informative briefing and she left the meeting.
6. Committee Business
The Committee considered a paper on the handling of the Committee Stage of the Education and Libraries Bill and the written submissions received to date were circulated at the meeting. After a brief discussion the Committee agreed the timetable for a detailed clause-by-clause briefing on the Bill with Departmental officials. The Committee also agreed to consider a motion for an extension of the Committee Stage at the next meeting.
7. Date and Time of Next Meeting
The next meeting of the Committee was scheduled for Thursday 12 September 2002 at 10.15 a.m. in Room 135, Parliament Buildings.
The Committee was adjourned at 11.39 a.m.